As the late author Steven Covey puts it, one of the seven secrets of highly successful people is to “think win-win”. In a given situation, you can creatively collaborate with each stakeholder so that mutual goals are achieved. The same goes for an open relationship, where the stakeholders are the birthparents, the parents who adopted and most importantly, the child.
Admittedly, not all open A Act of Love adoptions are a match made in heaven. More often than not, building trust and maintaining the relationship takes a lot of work and a firm commitment to the child’s good. It also requires willingness to compromise and ultimately, the realization that both parties are working as a team. There is also the awareness that an open adoption relationship has its own unique relationship dynamics.
Here are some tips to help sustain a healthy open adoption relationship:
– Agree on the ground rules. At the onset, the birthparent has the prerogative to choose her adoption plan, as well as the kind of adoption relationship she desires. However, the prospective parents need to honestly agree with these ground rules and commit to it. These ground rules can involve how the child will address or call the birthparents, the types of contact, their frequency and how key dates in the family’s life are celebrated (i.e. Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc.). In addition, you can try to cover other areas such as what the relationship will be with the biological relatives – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
– Understand each other’s roles. As birthparents and parents, you have unique roles to play and you have a unique place in the life of the child. The main role of disciplining and raising the child falls on the parents. They have all the authority to make key decisions for the child. The birthparent should understand this and resist the temptation to encroach on the role of the parent. It is important that both parties have an agreement when it comes to the types of gifts a child receives or which parent the child goes to for permission. In some instances, a wily child can try to pit one against the other in order to get what he wants. When the parents and birthparents fall into this trap, it is ultimately to the detriment of the child.
– Realize that circumstances change. You cannot expect that the situations you are in to remain static. After all, life is all a series of constant changes. The family may need to move to another state because a job opportunity has come up. The birthparent may have moved on to start a family and have other children. During these changes, it is key for both parties to sit down and agree on changes in the ground rules. When reviewing the rules, you can make an evaluation
– what areas do you feel need improvement in your relationship? What areas worked well? What expectations and level of commitment do you now have for the open adoption relationship?
– R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect, respect, respect. The family must respect the birthparent’s desire to build a relationship with the child. The birthparent must also respect the parents’ total rights and privileges as parents. There may also come a time when the birthparent desires to fully move on and to shift from an open relationship to a semi-open relationship. In all these, respect for each individual should be at the foundation
– Remember what is important: the child. During times when there are disappointments and disagreements, keep the main reason for the open adoption relationship at the top of your mind. Even when there is conflict between the birthparents and the parents, be reminded that your mutual concern is the wellbeing of the child.